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date: 22 May 2024


The Oxford Companion to United States History
Charles L. CohenCharles L. Cohen

Puritanism has been defined variously in intellectual, political, or cultural terms, but it is best understood as a religious sensibility centered around conversion—the Holy Spirit's regeneration of the soul—and the concomitant determination to restore the purity of the apostolic church and reform society according to God's laws. Theologically, Puritanism represents an emphasis within the Reformed Protestant (Calvinist) tradition on intense personal devotion and extreme ethical probity. During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, English divines described how during conversion those whom God elects to save (the saints) undergo a protracted spiritual experience in which they regret their sins, despair of obtaining eternal life, discover that they are redeemed by their faith in Christ alone, and celebrate the assurance that through him their salvation is absolutely secure. This “new birth” instills in the elect feelings of spiritual power and a zeal to demonstrate their love to God and to fellow saints by carrying out the Lord's commands. Puritan piety was characterized by a veneration of the ... ...

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